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Time to Pay Our Debt. The "Carbon Debt," That Is.

2 min. read

An article on Forbes' "Sustainable Capitalism" blog is well worth reading. The subject a familiar one: the debt is "ballooning out of control and threatening to spur...economic chaos." Except that it's not the debt you're reading about in the newspapers every day, but a different debt that might even be more important in many ways (bolding added for emphasis):

The carbon debt. Those pesky greenhouse gas emissions that we spew to power our businesses, drive our cars and heat and cool our homes are accumulating in the atmosphere like an unpaid bill with compounding interest.

Economists now say that the bill for all that unchecked carbon pollution is a lot bigger than previously thought—and that the longer we wait to pay it, the more it’s going to cost us.

new peer-reviewed report released this week by the Economics and Equity for the Environment (E3) network found that each ton of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere results in as much as $893 in economic damages, far greater than the government’s current estimate of $21 per ton.

This figure, known as the “social cost of carbon,” is used by federal agencies when weighing the costs and benefits of carbon-reducing regulations, such as appliance efficiency standards or fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.   It’s an estimate of the monetary damages caused by higher global temperatures, such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, agricultural losses and wildfires.

That's all true, and it's a situation the needs to be dealt with ASAP. Currently, however,  not only are we not paying our "carbon debt," we actually are continuing to subsidize the carbon-based fuels that are adding to that debt. How heavily are we subsidizing those fuels, and for how long we will continue to do so, are the main questions.  For the moment, though, the dirty energy industry appears to be winning its battle to keep itself from getting booted "off the dole."